Small Wars Journal

06/15/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 9:49am

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Early June

2. Leaving Afghan Allies Behind: Abandoning translators to the Taliban is a moral and strategic mistake.

3. Taiwan says will be ‘force for good’ after unprecedented G7 support

4. Win or Lose, U.S. War Against China or Russia Won’t Be Short

5. Top military officer says U.S. capable of defending Taiwan

6. Fixing Oversight of Special Operations Forces

7. An Alternative to the Afghan Pullout By James Inhofe

8. We Ignore the Human Domain at Our Own Peril

9. Sending in the Troops: The Kerner Report, Civil Unrest, and the US Military

10. The Anti-Quad, The PRIC and The Clash of Values

11. Opinion | We Cannot Afford to Turn Our Backs on Afghanistan

12. F-35 pilot: Forget drones, the skies still belong to fighter pilots

13. G7 more divided than united on countering China

14. Shifting Focus, NATO Views China as a Global Security Challenge

15. Disagreements flare among NATO allies despite relief at Biden’s arrival

16. The enduring triumph of Chimerica

17. Air Force would contribute bulk of new cyber mission force teams

18. FBI warns lawmakers that QAnon 'digital soldiers' may become more violent

19. Biden’s Kinder, Gentler Trumpism

20. China hits back at ‘slanderous’ Nato claim it poses threat to west

21. Saving America From the Counterrevolution

22. Is China Backtracking On Its Wolf Warrior Diplomatic Style?


1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Early June

June 14, 2021 | FDD Tracker: June 4 – 14, 2021

FDD Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Early June

David Adesnik

Welcome back to the Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker, where FDD’s experts and scholars assess the administration’s foreign policy every two weeks. As always, they provide trendlines of very positive, positive, neutral, negative, or very negative for the areas they study. With President Joe Biden on his first overseas trip, foreign policy has taken center stage. At the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, Biden announced the United States will purchase and donate half a billion doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to low-income nations, “with no strings attached.” Today the president is in Brussels for his first NATO summit, while the Taliban surges across Afghanistan. On the gathering’s sidelines, Biden will have his first in-person meeting with his Turkish counterpart, whose conduct consistently undermines the transatlantic alliance. The sternest test for Biden will come on Wednesday when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. Will Putin dial back his provocations after the summit, or will he only emerge emboldened? Check back in two weeks to see if Biden capitalized on these opportunities.


2. Leaving Afghan Allies Behind: Abandoning translators to the Taliban is a moral and strategic mistake.

WSJ · by the Editorial Board · June 14, 2021

Excerpts: “Even a functioning visa program is insufficient at this point. President Biden can save lives by doing more, such as the evacuation of applicants to a temporary third country as the process plays out. Or he could provide them with humanitarian parole, which grants temporary permission to enter the U.S.

The Afghan translators risked their lives helping the U.S.—following the rules and earning a chance at the American dream. Abandoning them now is unconscionable.


3. Taiwan says will be ‘force for good’ after unprecedented G7 support


Excerpts: “Taiwan will continue to deepen its partnership with G7 states and other like-minded countries and strive for greater support from the international community, he said.

Taiwan will also "firmly contribute the greatest force for good" for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, Chang added.

China has stepped up its pressure against democratically-run Taiwan in recent months, with regular military drills near the island as it tries to assert Beijing's sovereignty.

While most countries, including G7 members, have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the grouping along with other Western allies have been bolstering their backing for the island.

That includes calling for Taiwan to be given proper access to the World Health Organization during the coronavirus pandemic. Taiwan is not a member due to Chinese objections, which considers it merely one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a state.


4. Win or Lose, U.S. War Against China or Russia Won’t Be Short

Bloomberg · by Hal Brands · June 14, 2021

Nor would one be short with north Korea, Iran, or Russia. And the subtitle is an important question: what comes next? 

Conclusion: It doesn’t take much skill or foresight to start a big war. It may take a lot of endurance and creativity to end a great-power conflict somewhere short of disaster.


5. Top military officer says U.S. capable of defending Taiwan

Focus Taiwan ·  by David Barno · June 12, 2021

I have not seen this in the US press but I am not surprised that the Taiwan media noticed his testimony. 


6. Fixing Oversight of Special Operations Forces · by David Barno · June 15, 2021

The authors have said the quiet part out loud.  There are many senior officials who likely support this and this will put us right back in 1986. The answer is not to give SOF oversight to the Army but it is to provide SOF with service authorities along with responsibilities (and the resources to execute them) as Congress intends. Rather than go back to the future and undo Nunn-Cohen of Goldwater-Nichols, SOF needs to continue to evolve to improve (to reach an enlightened state).


7. An Alternative to the Afghan Pullout By James Inhofe

WSJ · by James Inhofe · June 13, 2021

Excerpts: “Preventing terrorist attacks from coming to American shores is why we have troops in Syria, Iraq and Somalia. Maintaining peace and preventing aggression is why we’ve had troops in Kosovo for more than two decades, on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt for almost five decades and in South Korea for more than seven decades. It is also why our troops are standing sentry in Europe and the Indo-Pacific today.

Two years ago, a bipartisan majority of the Senate warned President Trump against removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan without establishing the proper conditions on the ground. Mr. Trump listened. Mr. Biden didn’t. Reconsidering pivotal decisions is a sign of wisdom, not weakness, and I urge Mr. Biden to reconsider his choice on Afghanistan.


8. We Ignore the Human Domain at Our Own Peril · by Austin Branch · June 14, 2021

It is good to see LTG Cleveland credited with the human domain which I think has long been overlooked or forgotten.

Excerpts:Below are a series of recommended actions to improve the US government’s human domain capabilities and prowess in the context of great power competition.

Leadership and Accountability

Better Integration of Social and Behavioral Sciences Across the Defense Enterprise

Human Feedback Loops are Essential

Change the Way We Train and Exercise for the Human Domain

Learn to Leverage the Space

Take a Hard Look at Authorities

Build a Nimble and Proactive Force

The human domain problem is more than academic—the domain is where great power competition is playing out, and in ways that seem both familiar and unprecedented. Indeed, most engagements are now won or lost in the competition phase—before conflict, much less kinetic activity, are even in play. Importantly, the defense enterprise is unprepared for persistent engagement in the human domain. Moreover, since the current competition space does not include a large-scale kinetic conflict, conventional capabilities are not an effective deterrent or response to adversary operations in the information environment. To secure our democracy against authoritarian adversaries who currently operate freely within the human domain, the United States must embrace the new information paradigm and begin to orient capabilities toward developing agile processes and tactics to effectively operate in a contested and uncertain environment. Ultimately, we need to remember that the secret to getting ahead is to get started.


9. Sending in the Troops: The Kerner Report, Civil Unrest, and the US Military · by Laura Keenan · June 15, 2021

Conclusion: “The precedent of how the National Guard handled previous unrest is not a prescription for the future but offers essential reference points. The National Guard can add to or minimize the chaos, and the level at which the National Guard prepares in advance likely determines the role it plays. The lessons on inequality and police brutality learned from the Kerner Report are still timely, and understanding the root cause of unrest can accelerate the National Guard’s response. The National Guard’s role in civil unrest missions is vital to national security. The National Guard’s readiness for civil unrest reduces the potential strain for the active-duty military. It also sends a clear national security message to adversaries that even in moments of domestic crisis, the National Guard is prepared to provide a ready and resilient force to secure the homeland.“


10. The Anti-Quad, The PRIC and The Clash of Values

Yes this new acronym for authoritarian regimes should really catch on (note sarcasm). Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China. Form the acronym and say it out loud. I guess the author had to substitute Pakistan for north Korea since it might form a useful acronym.

Conclusion: “Since the acronym BRIC was coined conceptually by the Goldman Sachs global economist James O’Neil in 2001, BRIC actually emerged in real in 2009 followed by the BRICS in 2011. There are internal contradictions in the BRICS grouping but it is still relevant. The fact of the matter is that the economic grouping emerged eight years after the acronym was coined and conceptualized. We see a parallel here. An Anti-Quad grouping is taking shape and form in a strategic counter-reaction to the reincarnation of Quad 3.0 as an alliance of democracies. This Anti-Quad is an alliance of authoritarians and its raison d’etre is the Quad 3.0. We witness a serious clash of values, democratic versus authoritarian, between the Quad and the Anti-Quad. Whether this grouping will actually take a concrete shape in the form of an alliance is yet to be seen. The four countries that constitute this Anti-Quad are Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. In the now famous tradition of BRIC, for conceptual clarity, we coin a new acronym PRIC that denotes the four authoritarian nations. The PRIC is an acronym for Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China depicting a de facto emerging strategic alliance of authoritarian regimes as a counter reaction to the Quad 3.0. There is a visible clash of values, democracy versus autocracy! The PRIC represents the autocrats of the world who are resisting democratic values world-wide.


11. Opinion | We Cannot Afford to Turn Our Backs on Afghanistan

The New York Times · by Robert M. Gates · June 13, 2021

Conclusion: The outcome in Afghanistan still matters in terms of American interests. We turned our backs on Afghanistan after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989; we must not do so again after the last of our troops depart. We must assure the Afghans of our continuing support — and sustain that support — through every means available short of ground troops. The consequences of another Taliban takeover in Kabul would not be limited to the people of Afghanistan.


12. F-35 pilot: Forget drones, the skies still belong to fighter pilots · by Hasard Lee · June 14, 2021

Excerpt: “As a fighter pilot, my job is to not fall in love with the aircraft I fly, but to use it as a tool to accomplish a mission. We are constantly looking for ways to optimize our lethality while minimizing risk. If there is a better way to accomplish a mission, then it is our duty to use it. While I agree with Elon Musk that the future is drone warfare, I think we’re a lifetime away from seeing a fully autonomous Air Force.”


13. G7 more divided than united on countering China · by Andrew Salmon · June 14, 2021

I am not so sure. Every joint statement or communique is a compromise document. It may seem weak to some but I think it was a pretty strong statement because the community of democracies was able to compromise to reach it. There had been questions prior to the summit whether they would address China at all so this would seem to have been beyond expectations.


14. Shifting Focus, NATO Views China as a Global Security Challenge

The New York Times · by Steven Erlanger and Michael D. Shear · June 14, 2021

Excerpts:Some NATO members, especially those nearest to Russia in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations, are anxious that the shift in focus to China does not divert resources and attention from the Russian threat.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Chinese and Russian military officials during joint military exercises in Siberia in 2018.Credit...Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky

Mr. Biden made a point of meeting the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in Brussels before his meeting with Mr. Putin. NATO troops are deployed in all four countries.

But even Britain, probably Washington’s closest ally, expressed some wariness about confrontation with China. Asked at the NATO meeting about China, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned against a “new Cold War,” while acknowledging that China’s rise was a “gigantic fact in our lives.”

Similarly, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said after the meeting: “If you look at the cyberthreats and the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, you cannot simply ignore China.’’ But she also said: “One must not overrate it, either — we need to find the right balance.”


15. Disagreements flare among NATO allies despite relief at Biden’s arrival

The Washington Post · June 14, 2021

Excerpts: ““China is increasing its expansion, its influence around the world, and it’s increasingly running up against NATO,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday at a forum organized by the German Marshall Fund that ran alongside the summit. “We need to make sure that as an alliance, even though we’re much more Atlantic than Pacific, we are aware of the global influences the Chinese have.”

But not every NATO country is on board with confronting China more forcefully. Some such as Hungary have friendly relations with China and seek investments from Beijing. Others such as Germany and other big European powers fall in the middle, believing there is a balance between the need to work with Beijing to fight climate change and the need to rein in its global ambitions.

At the G-7 summit, too, the question of how vigorously to call out China remained a point of division, with Germany, Italy and Japan expressing some reluctance to go as far as the Biden administration hoped.

And NATO’s front-line countries, the ones that border Russia, have been concerned in the past that focusing elsewhere could distract from what they see as the alliance’s central mission of defending against Russia, although many are increasingly coming around to the necessity of responding to both.


16. The enduring triumph of Chimerica · by David P. Goldman · June 14, 2021

Excerpts: “I would be surprised to learn that the US Treasury and the PBOC have worked this out in some kind of tacit policy agreement. The current is so strong that the US is being caught up in a Sinocentric vortex of trade and capital flows whether it likes it or not.

Eventually, US-China policy will adjust to the misery of America’s present circumstances.


17.  Air Force would contribute bulk of new cyber mission force teams

Defense News · by Mark Pomerleau · June 14, 2021


18. FBI warns lawmakers that QAnon 'digital soldiers' may become more violent

CNN · by Zachary Cohen and Whitney Wild


19. Biden’s Kinder, Gentler Trumpism

Bloomberg · by Karl W. Smith · June 14, 2021

Excerpts: “No issue was more fundamental to Trump’s break with the past than his view of China as a rival rather than a partner. Not only were there the constant rhetorical attacks, but there was an often overlooked admission in a 2019 speech that he had always intended to spend the economic dividends from his tax cut on a trade war with China, but that it was worth the price.

Biden has been more restrained. But his advisers have made it clear there will be no return to the Obama-era paradigm of engagement, some of which those same advisers had worked to foster.

Crucially, the Biden administration has coupled this objective with the goal of broadly shared prosperity and declining inequality. This is the keystone that Trump, with his base in the Republican Party, simply could not set in place.

Ideologically, Trump’s policies of tax cuts for multinational corporations and “Buy American” provisions weren’t very compatible. With his supply-chain initiative, however, Biden is taking a crucial step forward in defining an economic paradigm that puts neoliberalism in the rear-view mirror. Whether the shift is wise is doubtful. But there can be little doubt that it is upon us.


20. China hits back at ‘slanderous’ Nato claim it poses threat to west

The Guardian · by Helen Davidson · June 15, 2021

Excerpts: “China’s embassy in London said it was resolutely opposed to mentions of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which it said distorted the facts and exposed the “sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States”.

China is under increasing pressure over its human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and other regions, a draconian intervention in Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy, and threats towards Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province to be reclaimed, by force if necessary.

The G7 had called on China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law”. It also underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, and said it encouraged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.


21. Saving America From the Counterrevolution · by Ethan Yang · June 14, 2021

Some interesting food for thought.

Excerpts: “The founder of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), Colonel Edward C. Harwood, wrote a little-known manifesto titled The Counterrevolution, which recounts this lesson not just for America but for the entirety of Western Civilization and its allies. The book may have been written in 1951, but it is just as relevant today, if not more so given where we are. During Harwood’s time, he saw a world greatly coming undone. Communism and Fascism were on the rise in Europe. Here at home, he observed a much milder but still highly troubling embrace of authoritarianism and reckless economics. It was obvious after reading Harwood’s book that he founded AIER to be the vanguard of not only sound economics and good government but ultimately a free and open society.


The socialists are very much still around today and their influence is growing. There is also the far-right and the new-right that seem to have abandoned the traditional Conservative commitment to the Constitution as well as free markets. On the left, you have the aforementioned socialists but also the emergence of intersectionality and critical race theory that combine economic ignorance with an utter disregard for individual dignity. Harwood explains that counterrevolutionary ideologies are based on legitimate complaints about society but have terrible solutions.

The best way to deal with them is to eliminate the problems that give them strength, whether it be providing economic opportunities for the marginalized or ensuring communities that were left behind can modernize. This, of course, requires more economic and civil freedom, not less. Harwood would recommend beating back the regulatory state, restoring the constitutional order, continuing to foster inclusive values pertaining to individuality, and reinvigorating our faith in private enterprise. They helped Western Civilization get this far; embracing these ideas again will certainly take it farther.


Defenders of the great revolution of enlightenment values and modernity have our work cut out for us. Harwood’s book is just as relevant today as it was in 1951 and at less than 100 pages, it is a manifesto for those who are up to the task of standing watch over the well-being of our society. Those who wish to dismantle the institutions of liberty that have made the West and its affiliates the richest and most advanced in human history pose a real threat. Abroad they must be held back with bayonets and sound foreign policy. Domestically they must be defeated in the realm of ideas and thoroughly discredited by addressing our shortcomings that give them credibility. Ultimately, this all requires restoring confidence in our civilization. That is because long before any rival power declares victory over the West, the West will have already given up on itself.


22. Is China Backtracking On Its Wolf Warrior Diplomatic Style? · by Harsh V. Pant · June 15, 2021

Excerpt: “But beyond the style, what is key is action. And here it is highly unlikely that CCP will give up its regional and global aspirations, which have resulted in an aggressive foreign policy posture. Even if Chinese diplomats tone down their rhetoric, Beijing’s expansive foreign policy ambitions will continue to bring it into confrontation with its neighbours and other major powers.

Reflecting on his engagement with China, Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, wrote that “Beijing’s diplomacy was so subtle and indirect that it largely went over our heads in Washington.” None of that subtlety exists today as China redefines its global role and agenda. While the Chinese leadership may now be realising that its diplomatic style needs a revamp, there is no indication that there is a rethink on Chinese policies. Stylistic shift without a substantive rethink won’t lead to a significant change in perceptions. But what recent developments underscore is that the costs are rising for China when it comes to its bullying tactics and for all the talk, there is hardly any plan to deal with it.




“Grand strategy is about marrying ends to means, about doing what you can, consistent with the nation's capabilities and resources.”

- Robert D. Kaplan, Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World


"Every revolution has its counterrevolution that is a sign the revolution is for real. And every revolution must defend itself against this counterrevolution, or the revolution will fail."

- C. Wright Mills,  Listen Yankee (1960), pp. 54.


"A boxer derives the greatest advantage from his sparring partner – and my accuser is my sparring partner. He trains me in patience, civility and even temper."

- Marcus Aurelius 

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